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Monochrome Madness: MM3-19

Once upon a time I hung out with a couple other photographers who used to lug bulky, heavy cameras in their backpacks similar to mine.  They always felt that it wasn’t really nature photography unless you had gotten off the main road, travelled some back road, then hiked a ways, and then got off the trail to your location.  If a shot was taken from the trail or road it was “trail kill”, or “road kill”.
I relayed a story to them that a golf pro once told me.  He said, “There’s no description on a scorecard.  The player who slices his drive into the woods, then tops his next shot 50 feet, then follows up hitting into the sand trap, then holing out from the sand shoots the same number as the player who goes from the middle of the fairway to the green, then two putts.”  Whether through a major expedition, or no effort whatsoever, nobody ever sees what went into getting a photograph.
As I was driving down towards Phoenix a few years ago, I came across some extremely unusual weather and lighting circumstances.  I pulled off the main road and searched frantically for a good foreground.  I was still shooting film at the time, and wanted to capture it that way, but never found the complete image I wanted.  Instead of continuing on my way, I stuck around, seeing that the weather was rapidly changing.  Prior to this shot there was a decent rainbow, and I thought that was my runner-up for the one that got away.  Within minutes of the rainbow, I knew I needed to get back into my car in a hurry.  I could actually hear the rain from this storm hitting the mountain a mile or two away.  After starting up my vehicle, I headed back towards the main highway, but only briefly.  Just as the drops started to pelt me, there was a pullout with a nice overlook.  The wind-driven rain was coming from my left side, and the sun was still coming through on the right.  I rolled down my very dry passenger window and started firing towards the storm.  This shot would be the ultimate form of “road kill”.
I would’ve never captured this rain event outside the car without destroying my camera, but I didn’t know what I had until I saw the images on the computer screen later that night.  Seeing this shot full size allows for the detail of the storm, so I’ve included a portion of it at 100% below.

Desert Downpour cropped - Steve Bruno
This is my contribution to Monochrome Madness this week.  You can go to Leanne Cole’s website to see the work of other bloggers.

WPC: Frame

I find that natural arches usually frame the surrounding scenery very well.  The photo above was taken from underneath Devil’s Bridge, near Sedona, Arizona.  I was fortunate to have just the right amount of clouds helping to fill the frame.

Cave Creek Canyon, in the far southeastern corner of Arizona, is named for all the openings that dot the canyon walls.  From far inside one of the larger openings, looking back into the canyon, I loved how this shot is framed.

Cave Creek Canyon Chiricahua Mountains - Steve Bruno

Historical Photographs, Part IV

Quite a few years ago, my brother and I went on a weekend trip through northeastern Arizona.  One afternoon, we went hiking in at Petrified Forest National Park.  The trail was difficult to follow, so we gave up trying, and just started heading off into the backcountry.  Petrified Forest NP, which lies in the middle of the Painted Desert, has hills that can look the same very quickly, and is not the place for an inexperienced hiker.  After about a couple miles of this, we knew it was almost time to turn around, when something caught our attention.  As we got closer, we couldn’t believe our eyes.  There were two standing petrified trees!  Although one was more like a tree fragment, the larger was about 9-10 feet tall.

Standing Trees - Petrified Forest NP - Steve Bruno

As you take the driving tour through the park, you will see the petrified logs laying on the ground, with some I’ve seen 40-50 feet in length.  I haven’t covered every square mile of Petrified Forest National Park, but I’m pretty sure these trees were the last ones standing.  That day was a complete adrenaline rush, but both my brother and I knew we had to come back and see this again with different skies.

It was almost a year later when our schedules coincided and we had dramatic skies to photograph this rare find.  It had been a wet winter, and the washes still had water as we headed into the backcountry.  Like I said earlier, the hills can look alike, and we were having trouble locating the trees.  We were joking that we were losing our tracking abilities, but then we discovered why we were having difficulty.  The taller of the trees was no longer standing.

As I mentioned, it had been a wet winter, and the soft soil of the Painted Desert captures impressions very well.  When we arrived at the fallen tree, there was a lone set of footprints that wandered towards the tree in an almost drunken fashion, stopped at the tree (easily in arms reach), then continued onward.  When this tree eventually fell, I figured it was going to be towards the right (top photo), but it had fallen to the left.  More importantly, it fell away from the footprints.

I find it highly improbable that this tree stayed upright for so many centuries, then fell on its own within the next year.  The footprints and the direction of the fall lead me to believe it had assistance.  This seems like the senseless destruction that only a young male would do, but then the story about boy scout leaders toppling a boulder in Goblin Valley, Utah a couple years ago makes me wonder.  They were both in their 40’s, and supposed role models, but look like immature teenagers in the video.  Their excuse was “we didn’t want the rock to fall on someone and hurt them”.  Sounds like the bullshit their lawyer fed them.

In the case of the petrified tree, the footprints wandered further into the backcountry.  I honestly hope that the asshole who did this was drunk and couldn’t find their way back, and ended up being a good meal for the coyotes and buzzards.  At least there would be some purpose for this waste of life.

Even with the photos I did manage to get on the first trip, it took a couple tries before I had one published.  Ironically, on the day after the magazine came out, I received a phone call from a photographer who gave me a long winded story when I inquired about one of his locations.  For a brief moment, I felt like sending him on a wild goose chase, but I was still disgusted over this, and just told him how there was nothing left to go back to.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-18

This is one of those rare times when the last shot of the morning turns out to be my favorite.  I had been up for sunrise, near that hill in the lower part of the frame.  The first minutes of daylight had a powerful glow, with just enough clouds to add some life to the scene.  As the morning progressed, the light continued to change with the building clouds.  After taking photographs for more than 2 hours, I thought I had exhausted all the possibilities, and was heading back down the trail.  I turned around in time to see this, and fire off a couple shots.  The saturation didn’t have the pop that was present in my early morning pics, but that didn’t matter.  I knew right away this was meant to be in b&w.

You will see this photo along with those of other bloggers in Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.

WPC: Fun

I truly enjoy spending time in the great outdoors and taking photographs of nature, but I’m not sure any of those photos convey a sense of fun.  Sometimes we just want to feel like the kid swinging from the rope, ready to release and splash down into the pool.  Maybe there’s an image of your kind of fun in the gallery below!

Monochrome Madness: MM3-17

Everybody I know locally is ready for summer to be over and done.  I know it’s a desert, and it’s going to be hot, but usually there’s some kind of break by now with some clouds and rain from the southwest’s monsoon season.  Arizona is keeping it to themselves this year, and I’m sure I’ve said it before that I don’t like to take my camera out under these blue (sometimes hazy, smoky, dusty) skies.

There is a bright side to this lack of clouds.  The Perseid Meteor Shower hits its peak in the next couple nights, and this year is supposed to be the most active in 20 years.  The only distraction will be the moon in the skies, but once that has set, expect great viewing.  So all you stargazers, Nevada is the place to watch this event, as we have no weather this summer.  Just don’t get too close to Las Vegas, there’s way too many lights here.

This photo of the night skies from nearby Mount Charleston is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  You can check out her site here.

WPC: Morning

As I developed as a photographer, it was evident that I was becoming more of a morning person.  Part of this was due to the fact that I was living in the desert, and hiking and just being outdoors were limited to mornings on many summer days.  When I say morning, I really mean from an hour before sunrise to about an hour after sunrise.  That’s when the light can be truly amazing.

As I started travelling to the National Parks and other highly popular areas, I really appreciated the diminished (and sometimes lack of) crowds first thing in the morning.  I can understand being on vacation and wanting to sleep in, just not if you’re a photographer.

That brings me to my photos for this week’s challenge.  I was on vacation in Hawaii with quite a few family members.  We had been to this spot the day before, and I just looked at everything and knew I had to come back for a sunrise.  Upon returning to our rooms, I said, “I’m going back there first thing in the morning, who wants to join me?”  As I expected the answer was pretty much silence.

I arrived at the parking area just before sunrise and took a couple shots before hitting the trail.  It was a fairly short trail which descended a couple hundred feet to the beach.  It was a very relaxing, almost meditative, morning on a beautiful black sand beach.  About an hour later another person came down the trail, and by that time I was ready to head back.

Hawaii SunriseHawaii Oceanside Cliffs at SunriseHawaii Black Sand Beach Tide

I generally don’t like to wake to an alarm clock, but for occasions like this, I am glad to make exceptions.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-16 Movement

This week’s Monochrome Madness had the theme of Movement.  You can see others’ interpretation of the theme at Leanne Cole’s website.

I had a difficult time choosing one image for the challenge, but the photo above of waves crashing the shore near Hilo, Hawaii is the one I went with.  I have included my ‘outtakes’ in this post.  Perhaps there is one you like more for the theme.

WPC: Narrow

This week’s Daily Post Challenge of Narrow made me immediately think of slot canyons.  The most famous (and photographed) one is Antelope Canyon, and you can find thousands of shots from inside the canyon, but have you ever wondered what it looked like from outside?  This is lower Antelope Canyon (above), and that narrow crack in the earth is about 50 to 60 feet deeper than what you can see at this spot.  Water has worn it smooth all the way, so think of this as the bathtub drain if there’s a thunderstorm nearby.

Not far from Antelope Canyon, even deeper and equally claustrophobic is Paria Canyon, with the branch known as Buckskin Gulch.  Once you’ve entered, it remains this narrow for miles, with few escape routes.  The drainage continues upcanyon for many miles, and there are logs jammed in a couple spots high above your head to remind you that this is a sunny day hike.  If it has flooded recently, you will find this impassible due to quicksand.

Buckskin Gulch - Steve Bruno

A much tighter series of canyons exist in Cathedral Gorge State Park in eastern Nevada.  No chance of being caught in a flood here, because these don’t travel very far.  In some spots you will have to walk sideways to get through.  Without some object providing a sense of scale, this may be difficult to obtain perspective, but I can’t walk through this canyon with my feet side by side.

Cathedral Gorge Narrow Canyon - Steve Bruno

One place that I find quite unique is this series of canyons at the base of Mount Charleston, Nevada.  The canyons themselves are not that narrow or deep, but there is this narrow passage from one canyon to the next one.

Secret Passage - Steve Bruno

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